December 31, 2015

15" Planer Cutterhead Upgrade - Challenges

The bed project has been largely on hold for the last year as other priorities have continued to pop up. One of the things that has really slowed progress on just about every project has been dealing with tearout from the planer. While this challenge is what initially pushed me down the slippery slope into using hand tools it also means that much of my limited shop time is spent hand planing, scraping, and sanding out areas where the grain tore out from the planer. On top of that my planer knives were getting dull and needed to be swapped out and that is another few hours of shop time wasted. Those factors, along with Grizzly's Christmas sale on the Byrd Shelix spiral carbide heads, were enough to push me to finally pull the trigger on the upgrade. Based on recommendations from the WoodNet community I checked in with Holbren and they confirmed the Shelix head should fit my generic Taiwanese planer (a clone of the Grizzly G1021 or Delta DC-380 shown below) and they agreed to match Grizzly's price so I placed the order with them.

I received the cutterheard and and eventually headed out to the shop to start the install following the instructions provided by Byrd. Disassembly went smoothly at first and the head and gearbox came out of the planer without much issue. Then things went down hill. I removed the bolts holding the gear box together but it did not separate nicely as the instructions implied. I bought this planer used and the gear selector that is supposed to allow you to change speeds was "stuck" the entire time I owned it. I never saw a need to change speeds anyway so this didn't bother me but the fact that the rod (#131 below) was seized in the cover casting made it difficult to pull apart and resulted in it breaking at the point where it is bolted to the yoke (#129) as the gear case was forced apart. A bit of creative work with a 3-jaw puller removed gear #120 allowing access to the helical gear #112. The helical gear was also stuck on shaft and was a challenge to remove. After removing bolt #113 we ended up pounding the cutter head shaft out of the gear and through the bearing in the rear case.

At this point it seemed like we were out of the woods right up until I checked the fit of the helical gear to the mating feature on the new cutterhead and found the spline on the head wasn't even close to fitting the slot in the gear. Ugh.

I got in touch with contacts from both Holbren and Byrd and they confirmed that it wasn't as simple as receiving the wrong version head (they commented they are all the same) but that this planer seems to be different than everything they've come across in the past so they asked if I could take some measurements for comparison.

The slot in the helical gear measured out at about ~0.325" while the spline on the cutterhead measured ~0.400" exactly as spec'd by Byrd. This confirmed that the head was good but my planer was in fact different than 99% of the similar models out there.

After providing these measurements Garry from Byrd suggested that the easiest path forward would be to mill out the slot in the helical gear to match the cutterhead or if that wasn't something I could get done easily he offered to send me one of the standard gears with the hope that the only difference was the slot width. The offer was much appreciated but since I had to replace the gear shift handle anyway I ended up ordering a replacement gear through grizzly along with the other parts. If that doesn't fit then I'll have to fall back to milling out the slot in the original gear.

While I was reviewing the parts diagram (above) to find the right replacement parts I also noticed that my gearbox was clearly setup differently and after some head scratching it appears it only has gears to support a single speed and that the gear change handle was likely "seized" on purpose by bending the handle shaft to prevent someone from trying to shift into the non-existent 2nd speed. I've heard of planers like this with "single speed" gear boxes but I'd be surprised if this sort of hack was the typical production approach to dealing with the gear selector handle. At this point I'm guessing I will likely end up taking a similar approach once I get it put back together but I'll have to play around with the gearbox once I get the replacement parts to see if any better options are pop out. It was also interesting to note that my planer is missing the entire chain tensioner assembly (#106 etc. in the diagram below) nor the mounting features in the casting to support it.

Once I get parts and get this oddball back up and running I'll report back on how things worked out. Hopefully this info is useful to someone else out there that might have an odd-ball 15" 4 post planer like this one with a single speed gearbox, no chain tensioner, and non-standard cutterhead drive spline. It turns out these clones are not all the same after all...

February 7, 2015

Walnut Queen Bed - Part 2

January has been much colder than December but I still managed to make some progress on the bed. After fitting the joints for the footboard the next step was to layout the mortises in the headboard corner posts. At this point it was helpful to pull up the Sketchup model right at the workbench and mark out the joints.

I then chopped the mortises and the grooves between them for the headboard and head rail using the same process as on the footboard.

At this point I took a bit of a detour. I am planning to drawbore the mortise and tenon joints and that will require some walnut pegs. All of this was a good excuse to make a dowel plate so I picked up a length of steel long enough to make a few of them and headed over to Mark's heated shop to drill the holes.

The idea is to split of a piece of straight grained stock and then pound it through the progressively smaller holes until you end up with a dowel of the proper size. Since the dowel plate strips off the excess wood along the grain the resulting dowels are straight grained and thus much stronger than store bought dowel stock. I still need to determine what size dowels I will use and then find some nice straight stock to start with but at this point I shifted back to finishing the joinery for the headboard.

Before I could layout the tenons on the headboard I had to figure out the most attractive grain orientation. I wiped on some mineral spirits to highlight the grain and then spent the next hour or so flipping it around to see which side and orientation looked best. I then clamped a thin strip of wood in place to approximate the curve that will be cut across the top in order to check how the curve fit with the grain pattern. I finally settled on the orientation below.

The next step was to rough out the tenons with the dado stack.

Since the headboard and lower head rail are the same thickness I was able to run them both on the same setup.

Following the same process as the footboard I marked out the tenons and cut out the waste with the sash saw and coping saw.

After some chiseling and planing to tweak the fit the joints came together nicely and I was able to dry fit the headboard assembly.

It was now time to layout the curves that will define this design. I started by marking a point in the center of the headboard and 3" down from the top edge. Next then taped a piece of string between the two top corners so that it passed directly over that point. Then I marked out the curve in pencil following the string. 

I roughed in the curve in the footboard at the bandsaw.

To layout the complimentary curve on the headboard I marked along the cutoff from the footboard.

I cleaned up the convex curve on the headboard with a few strokes with the plane.

The concave curve on the footboard cleaned up nicely with the spokeshave.

The top of each corner post is cut at an angle that matches the flow of the intersecting curve. I marked out the angle by eye and then setup the miter saw to make the cuts.

At this point you can get a pretty good idea of what the bed will look like. So far so good.

 Next up is planning out the details of the drawbore pegs, trying out a few finishing options on some scrap, and putting together the rails and mounting hardware.

January 6, 2015

Walnut Queen Bed - Part 1

Building a bed for our master bedroom has been on the to-do list for quite some time. Other projects kept getting in the way and even after it made it to the top of the list I really struggled to find the right design. We wanted something fairly simple and I also wanted to find a design that would take advantage of the 16" wide walnut that I had stashed away for this project. I browsed through Google images looking for different options, looked through the beds posted to the projects section of Lumberjocks, and even created a pinterest page to collect pictures of beds that we found interesting. In the end the bed from Vermont Wood Studios shown below kept catching my eye.
Vermont Shaker Moon Bed

With this basic design in mind I started drawing out plans in Sketchup to dial in the proportions and determine the proper dimensions to accommodate a queen size mattress. This took a few iterations as I struggled to figure out how to make this design work with a boxspring. 

In the end I tossed out the boxspring and designed this bed to support the mattress with a series a slats across the width of the bed. This allowed the mattress to sit lower and reduced the overall bulk of the bed. I also tweaked the design such that the headboard was 15" wide (or would that be tall?) so that it could be made with the single widest board that I can run through my planer.

Back in September I finally kicked off the actual woodworking by sorting through my stash of thicker walnut timbers (man I love finding unique lumber like this on Craigslist) to find four nice sections to make the corner posts.

In the end I was able to get all four posts out of a single 12/4 timber. The grain is a bit more wild than I would ideally like but I couldn't justify ripping apart larger 6x6 timbers to try to find more traditional straight grained rift-sawn stock. My hope is that since the design is so simple this grain will actually add some visual interest without looking too ridiculous.

The next step in the rough milling process was to sort through the wide walnut stock to find the best pieces for the headboard and footboard.

I cut the headboard and footboard to rough length and set them aside while I found some lesser quality boards that could be ripped into the smaller widths needed for the side rails and lower rail on the headboard.

Some of these walnut boards have partial "live edges" as shown on the board below. In order to process this board I first needed to snap a chalk line inside of the narrowest point of the board to define a reference edge to be used in later steps.

I then ripped the board along the chalk line at the bandsaw.

The sawn edge was then trued up with a jointer plane. Having a decent workbench really makes working with these big slabs much easier.

I then ripped this board in half at the table saw with the jointed edge along the fence. These pieces will ultimately become the 6" wide side rails of the bed.

I followed the same basic process with the wide slabs for the headboard and footboard but rather than rip them in half I ripped off just a bit to bring them down to 15" wide so they will fit through the planer.

The next task was to start flattening one face of the headboard. I used winding sticks to identify any twist and knocked down the high spots with a jack plane. Lex was helping at this point and decided pose for the picture.

When I had one side flat enough that the board would sit flat on the workbench without rocking I ran it through the planer with that face as the reference surface. After a few passes I started flipping the board to plane down each side evenly until both faces were planed smooth. My generic planer only has a 2HP motor but it chewed through this mouthful without any hesitation despite the fact that the knives are getting a bit dull. 

Lex and I then moved on to cutting the headboard to final length. At this point I double and triple checked the sketchup model and my measurements since the headboard will ultimately define the width of the bed frame which needs to carefully fit the width of the queen sized mattress. 

At this point in the project I was scratching my head trying to figure out how to setup the headboard to plane the ends straight and true. I brought this up with some of the guys at work and Mark gave me a stupid look and said "Isn't that what a shooting board is for?" I had never run across a need for a shooting board before but after thinking about it for a few seconds it was clear. "This is exactly what a shooting board is for." I took a bit of a detour to build a quick shooting board and then tested it out truing up the ends of the headboard. Wow, that was clearly the right tool for the job as the resulting ends were as square and true as I could measure.

My next task was to layout the mortise and tenon joints between the headboard and corner posts. Since the board is so wide I split the joint into 3 separate mortises and associated tenons with a shallow groove and associated web between them. 

With the mortise laid out I hogged out the waste with the hollow chisel mortiser.

After chopping the mortises I knifed in the outline of the groove and then started to excavate that area with a chisel.

After removing the bulk of the waste with the chisel I switched to the router plane to bring the groove down to a consistent depth.

With the female portion of the joint complete I started creating the tenons on the headboard with a dado stack. Since the ends of the board were square and true from the shooting board it was simple to run the ends against the rip fence to guide this cut. The rip fence setting was also very critical since it defined the width between the shoulders at each end which ultimately defined the distance between the two corner posts which needs to carefully match the width of the mattress.

With the faces of the tenon formed, the next step was to layout the individual tenons as well as the remaining web between them. I marked the extents of each tenon directly from the mortises in the corner post and used a square to extend the lines. I also cut a small scrap to the depth of the groove and used this as a spacer to mark out the baseline of the web as shown below.

Due to the length of the board, holding it in position to saw the tenons on the end was a bit awkward. I ended up simply leaning it up against the rear edge of my workbench wedged up against the base of the table saw at the bottom. I then made the vertical saw cuts to define the edges of each tenon with a backsaw. This was the first real test for my new Bad Axe hybrid filed 14" sash saw and it got the job done with ease. I like this saw.

I then used a coping saw to remove the bulk of the waste between the tenons leaving the small web between them to be trimmed up with a chisel where needed.

I then started test fitting the joint and tweaking the fit with a chisel and shoulder and block planes.

This trial and error process took quite a few iterations on the first joint but went much quicker on the other side where I had a better idea of where the tight spots were likely to be.

The end result was two joints that fit nice and tight along the shoulders.

I love the first point in a project where you can actually dry fit a few components together and stand them up to get an idea of what the finished project might look like. Below you can see the basic shape and proportions of the footboard. I still need to cut the curve along the top edge of the board and refine the shape of the corner posts but at this point I am shifting focus to the headboard to complete the basic joinery and get it to this same stage.

I still don't have heat in the shop so progress through the rest of the winter will be largely dictated by the weather. Here's to hoping January brings a few mild weekends like those we had in December.